'Supergirl' Comes Out of the Shadow of Her Famous Cousin (INTERVIEW)

The creators of 'Supergirl,' which premieres tonight on CBS, wants you to know her story is just as interesting and perhaps even more complicated than that guy with the red cape.
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Supergirl CBS Melissa Benoist Photo

Melissa Benoist is 'Supergirl.' (Photo: Matthias Clamer/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. © 2015 WBEI. All Rights Reserved.)

There will be another superhero flying through the air with the greatest of ease when Melissa Benoist puts on her tights and cape for the premiere of Supergirl on CBS.

The idea for the series, based on the DC Comics, was first brought to creators/executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg by Sarah Schechter, also an exec producer on the show, because they have a real knack when it comes to converting comic books to TV series. (Just look at their track record with The Flash and Arrow.)

But Schechter felt the time had come to have a woman in the title role, and Superman's cousin had a great thing going for her: Her story hadn't been done to death, so people didn't have as many expectations about what Supergirl was supposed to be. That gave the creators a lot of latitude in crafting the show.

At first Berlanti, who says he always tries to imagine what the show is if you remove the superpowers from it, was a bit resistant to the idea, but the ah-ha moment when he realized how to make the series work came, according to Schechter, the day he called her and said, "I figured it out. It's Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Ginger Rogers had to do everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in heels."

Meaning that everything that Kara Zor-El, aka Supergirl, aka Kara Danvers, does is more complicated and interesting than her cousin.

Supergirl Calista Flockhart Photo

Calista Flockhart as 'Cat Grant' in 'Supergirl.' (Photo: Richard Cartwright/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

The cast of Supergirl also stars Calista Flockhart as Kara's boss, media mogul Cat Grant; Chyler Leigh as Kara's foster sister Alex Danvers; Mechad Brooks as famous photographer Jimmy Olsen; David Harewood as co-worker and IT technician Hank Henshaw; and Jeremy Jordan as Winslow "Winn" Schott, head of a super-secret agency where her sister also works, and with whom Supergirl gets involved.

Bio caught up with Kreisberg, Schecter and creator/executive producer Ali Adler to get the answers to burning questions about Supergirl, which will premiere on Monday, Oct. 26 at 8:30 p.m. on CBS, before moving to its normal 8 p.m. time slot on November 2nd.

How is Supergirl going to be its own entity?

Andrew Kreisberg: Part of the mantra of The Flash was part humor and part spectacle, and I think that this show has that, but I think that it's a little more grownup in some respects. There's a whole aspect of the show, this sort of workplace comedy, which we've never really tried before on any other show.

In the way that Flash has more moving parts than Arrow did, Supergirl has more moving parts than Flash. Some of it is very much the same because we're dealing with somebody who's coming into their own, but it's a whole different journey, her being a woman as a superhero.

With Kara having super powers, how do you keep the suspense in the show?

Kreisberg: It was important for us, especially for a weekly TV show, to put her in situations where she isn't all powerful, so that you can root for her. I think sometimes there's a tendency with Superman to make him so powerful that there isn't any danger. And week in, week out, you want to feel as if Supergirl might not survive. Based on the comics, there are plenty of things besides Kryptonite that can take her down. It's not to diminish her, but it's to make it feel like there is actual jeopardy for the show.

Supergirl CBS Photo

(Photo: Darren Michaels/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc.)

Sarah Schechter: Also for Kara, her invincibility is more threatened because she hasn't been practicing her powers. She really hid this for so long, so she's a little rusty.

What's great about Supergirl as opposed to Superman is that she spent 13 years living on Krypton as a normal girl with no powers. Then not only does she have the trauma of everyone that she knows being killed, she comes to a world that tells teenage girls to suppress what makes them special. She comes to a world that tells teenage girls you should fit in and you shouldn't be all of you if that's different or weird.

What makes this story so interesting, so rich and so fun is that, for me, that's more relatable. What Kara's experiencing on the show is coming to terms with everything that she can be and embracing who she is. The things that make her different are also the things that make her great. I think that as a message is important and relatable.

Is it going to be a serialized show or are there case-of-the-week elements?

Kreisberg: There are some case-of-the-week elements. For us, generally, no matter what show we're doing and no matter what year it is, you tend to start the season with a few more villains of the week because what you're doing is laying the emotional foundation for what's to come later on as things become more serialized.

There's an ongoing big bad, and the beginning is Kara forming her team, deciding what kind of superhero she wants to be, and learning that her cousin has done it one way but she can do it very differently. We're portraying Superman as much more of a lone figure, but that Kara doesn't want to do it that way. She's more of a team builder, and she has all these people in her life.

Supergirl CBS Photo

Benoist as Kara and Mechad Brooks as photographer Jimmy Olsen. (Photo: Richard Cartwright/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

You mention Superman but don't let him be the center of attention. Will that continue?

Ali Adler: I think that we're going to answer some questions about where he is in the world very quickly in the series, because it's important for all of us that this be her show. We've seen many Superman shows and movies, and this is really an exciting and fresh template for us to look at her stories, and guys will want to watch, too, because they're just as much their stories.

Could we see Superman down the line?

Adler: I can't know what will happen in the future, but I do know that we will answer the question of where he is, what he's doing, and why he doesn't come in to rescue her.

There was a great scene in the pilot where Calista Flockhart tells Kara why it is okay to be a girl. Do you see this as an opportunity to take back the word "girl?"

Schechter: Yes. I personally am a big fan of the Riot Girls and they were the first to do it. I think with any word that people have assigned a derogatory value to, the idea of being able to redefine that is incredibly exciting and valuable. Beyoncé has done it. There's a lot of examples of it. I think as Cat Grant says, "There's nothing wrong with being a girl." I think that's an important message for girls and boys.